Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
Many people choose to be frugal for different reasons. Maybe they were raised to live a frugal life, so it’s second nature to them. Perhaps they are consciously frugal and are saving to pay cash for a house, or they have a child about to head off to college. Maybe they simply don’t see any other reason to be anything but frugal.
Many of these tips will help you discover new activities and save money. Frugal people know how to be resilient during tough times. Despite your current situation, you can apply many of these tips at any time.
Whatever their reason, frugal people have these things in common: They all know that every penny counts, and they know where all their pennies are going. So, how frugal are you? Ready to find out?
Keep reading and see how many frugal things you are already doing or what new behaviors you can add to your already frugal lifestyle.
You cut bills where possible
Not all bills can be negotiated, but for the ones that can, negotiate. Call your cable provider and have them lower your bill or better yet, switch to Netflix. If you use your cellphone almost exclusively, let go of the landline. Call and see what plans are out there for your cellphone and ask if you can get a better deal. A few minutes on the phone with a helpful agent can save you money. Is there anything you can do with your car insurance to lower that bill?
You plan meals and eat at home
Instead of grabbing something fast while you’re out running errands, eat before you leave the house. Frugal people also plan their meals, grocery shop from their meal plan, then eat at home. Giving in to temptation isn’t something they frequently do when it comes to their money. Instead of heading to the fast-food drive-up window, keep a container of snacks in the car that can calm the hungries until you are home again.
You look for deals and use coupons
More often than not the stores you shop in have coupons and discount codes waiting to be used. Get in the habit of only buying items you have coupons for and that are on sale. Once you have padded the pantry with staples, shop the sales flyers and track your savings. Always check your receipts for errors. Living on the Cheap expert Bryan K. Chavez shares tips on stacking coupons to save even more.
You learn from your mistakes
It’s OK. Frugal people aren’t perfect. But when mistakes are made, they use it as a lesson learned. Maybe they went over budget in a particular area for the month, or caved in to the family’s snack food craving. Instead of thinking the world is coming to an end, just become more aware. If going over budget becomes a habit, reevaluate your budget.
You eat leftovers
For some people, leftovers are off the radar. But this is a simple but important tip to keep your food budget in check. Create new meals out of already prepared food — a leftover roast can be shredded and turned into barbecue sandwiches. Cold pizza slices can be refreshed with shredded cheese and other toppings, popped into the oven for a few minutes, and seem brand new. Frugal people also make enough food to get two meals out of one. Eating leftovers will save you time and money.
You don’t mind buying things used
It becomes easy to purchase used items when you realize how much markup gets added to brand-new things. Get to know the people who work at the local thrift shop, and let them know what you are looking for. Use old clothing in a creative way — add fabric or lace to a pair of pants or change dated buttons for trendy ones on a vintage cardigan. When you look at the amount of money you have saved, the fact that the item is used is no longer important.
You remember the saying, ‘See a penny, pick it up — all day long you’ll have good luck’
Frugal people do. Remember, every penny counts. Don’t toss those copper pieces — put them in a jar and save for a special treat. Even putting aside just a couple of extra dollars a month out of what you saved from lowering your phone bill adds up.
You shop out of need, not as a hobby
There isn’t a long-term reward in spending money by shopping; however, there is a long-term reward when it comes to saving money. Finding a hobby that is inexpensive or free is easy if you are open to the possibilities.
You don’t buy a gym membership
Exercise at home instead. There are tons of videos available on YouTube, or you can download a fitness app. Find one that fits your need and personality and rock out in the living room. Being active outdoors is free. Running only costs a pair of running shoes. If you have access to a pool, swimming could be a great form of exercise. Play catch with the kids, or have an old-fashioned game of tag —you will spend time with the family and burn some calories!
You trade services with friends
Maybe you can trade babysitting services so you can go grocery shopping alone or go out with your husband for the evening. Trading services is free and rewarding at the same time. You are helping others while saving money.
You take your lunch to work
You will be surprised at the amount of money you save by bringing lunch from home. Learn to say no to lunch orders at work. If your reasoning for eating out every day has to do with getting away from the office, then take your homemade lunch and head to the local park. Having a change of scenery is free. You can save hundreds of dollars a year just by following this tip.
Keep track of all your bills
Other than seeing if there are any bills you can reduce, find out if you can get a discount for putting your bills on an autopay program. Frugal people look for every possible way to save money, and autopay is definitely an easy way to go about saving. For instance, some prepaid cellphone plans offer a discount if you enroll in automatic payment.
You create a grocery list and only buy what’s on your list
Becoming more intentional with your money is easier to do when you only buy what’s on your list. (A note: If you spot a stock-up deal on an item you use regularly, take advantage of that offer.)
You are a DIYer
Frugal people would much rather spend their time doing something than spending their hard-earned cash on paying someone else for the service. Learn to make easy home repairs, sew on a button or change a tire. You may think you need a plumber for that leaky faucet when in fact it just needs a new washer. Avoid the service call and learn how to diagnose these types of problems.
You know that time is money
In some cases, ignore the previous tip. Paying for a service instead of doing it yourself is sometimes more cost-effective. People are skilled in different areas. If that leaky faucet is now a waterfall that is unstoppable, it’s time to call the plumber.
You buy in bulk when the unit price is cheaper
Checking the unit price is always a good idea. The smallest container isn’t really where you always get the most bang for your buck. Some items are much cheaper to buy in bulk. A good example would be paper products.
You repair things
Doing a little research on repairing versus replacing may save you a lot of money. Again, replace the rubber piece, not the whole faucet, it’s much cheaper. An old lawnmower could last for many more years by changing spark plugs and filters. Explore repair options before buying a replacement.
You find ways to entertain at home instead of going out every weekend
Renting a movie and watching it at home instead of taking the whole family to the movies will save you a lot of money. Finding ways to have fun at home is a great way to be frugal.
You aren’t married to brands
After comparing ingredients, often the store brand has the same ingredients as a major brand. Frugal people are willing to give the store brand a try. If a product is used as an ingredient in a baked item, you may not even taste the difference.
You are always looking for more ways you can be even more frugal
Frugal people are always listening and trying new things, challenging themselves to save even more. The hunt for savings is just as exciting as the money you save itself!
You don’t buy stuff to impress people
Dave Ramsey has a saying: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” If this is something you are guilty of, think of all the money you will save when you stop. The Joneses can handle their own finances; focus on your ultimate goal of getting and staying out of debt.
You turn unwanted/unused items into cash
Decluttering is a gold mine when you turn your unwanted items into cash. And nowadays being able to sell online is a lot easier than holding a yard sale. Sell on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or other sites.
You start a new good habit every year
Frugal people vow to start a new habit of saving or spending less every year. For instance, challenge yourself to stop buying individual water bottles and use reuseable bottles for one year. If your original habit was to buy two bottles of water per day at $2 a bottle, you will save $1,460 in one year. Now that the reusable bottle is a habit, move on to other ways to save: Eliminate paper towels and use rags instead, or time your showers to save on water and heating costs.
You plan for the future and set obtainable goals
Frugal people are always working toward specific goals. They know where they plan on being in five years. Create a five-year plan, then break that plan down into doable steps. You can do this!
Being frugal is a lifestyle, a conscious choice to live below your means. Once you have become accustomed to living frugally, it’s almost impossible to spend money without thinking about it first.
How many things on this list are you already doing? Are there any on this list you are going to start implementing right away? Are you a frugal person just starting to watch all your pennies or are you in it for the long haul? Even if you aren’t doing everything on this list, you are headed in the right direction of frugality.
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